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Tosspottery, tosspottery

To Sarah Damaske, a professor of sociology and labor and employment relations at Penn State University, the dynamic is reminiscent of “very old forms of labor”.

“When we see really extreme income inequality, this ability to outsource personal tasks becomes more possible. It becomes more possible for someone who’s at one end of the extreme to purchase the labor power of someone who is at the other end of the extreme when the minimum wage is stagnant for as long as it has been,” Damaske said.

“Which is why it makes me think of those days gone by when people were afforded opportunities via birthright, in kind of a manor-born type of way.”

Trotting out the standard tosspottery. This is about a bloke who makes $80k a year standing in lines in New York.

True, 80k ain’t a fortune in NYC but it’s not minimum wage now, is it?

This is where the Guardian finds Robert Samuel, a 46-year-old former mobile phone salesman, whose job is now to sit in lines for other, mostly wealthy, people. It’s a strange career, but one which has given Samuel a front row seat at some of the biggest cultural events of the last decade – and a job which perhaps sums up the state of capitalism, and inequality, in 2022.

Yeah, capitalism and inequality.

Pre-pandemic, the job was enough for Samuel to earn up to $80,000 a year.

That’s between two and three times what The Guardian pays its worker bees…..

18 thoughts on “Tosspottery, tosspottery”

  1. Thanks to the increasing inefficiency of any state services in South Africa, queue holding was a way for someone with little other skills and no capital (other than a mobile phone) to make some money. Get to the dept of home affairs, make contact, negotiate a price and how many minutes warning you need to get back in time to join near the front of the line, and return to your place of work.

  2. £65k a year for basically sitting around reading books or watching videos on your phone – almost as good as a Civil Service job (no pension).

  3. former mobile phone salesman
    Read this as ex-shyster. The person who ensured you didn’t read the small print on that contract you signed. At least he’s found himself honest emnployment

  4. Samuel says the worst part of the job is the racism that he and his team, many of whom are Black and Latino, have experienced.

    Samuel recalled how one of his colleagues had fallen into conversation with a woman and her young daughter as they all waited for Hamilton tickets. The daughter asked Samuel’s line-sitter about the last show he had seen.

    “Oh, don’t be silly, they don’t go to see shows,” the mother interjected.

    Another time, a colleague was waiting for tickets for Macbeth. He got talking with a white man in line and told him about line-sitting.

    “‘He was like: ‘Great idea, that’s awesome. But are there any white people who do this?’” Samuel recalls.

    The absolute state of racism in 2022. Time was when people could be more effortlessly racist looking over a Chinese menu or telling a funny joke about a black man walking into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. Sad! Weak!

  5. But isn’t this the modern form of labour too… i mean if robots are making everything, calculating everything, driving everything, then there’s still plenty plenty of stuff for humans to do to fulfill our skies-the-limit wants.

  6. Samuel recalled how one of his colleagues had fallen into conversation with a woman and her young daughter as they all waited for Hamilton tickets. The daughter asked Samuel’s line-sitter about the last show he had seen.

    “Oh, don’t be silly, they don’t go to see shows,” the mother interjected.

    So what’s the best simile? Thick as a Guardian journalist? Or thick as a n****er?
    See photo at top of article. Does he look like a regular person queuing for theatre tickets? Or a professional line-holder? The clue might be in the pop-up rainshelter & camping chair. If you didn’t catch the advertising. So no, as the observant woman said “they (professional line-holders) don’t go to see shows.”
    WTF’s that got to do with racism?

  7. WTF’s that got to do with racism?

    Presumably in grauniad land, only blacks wait in line.

  8. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    The concept of someone doing something someone else finds useful in exchange for that someone else’s money is as alien to the Grauniad readership as the concept of such exchanges happening on a mutually agreeable voluntary basis.

  9. Isn’t this a prime example of a successful application of the “gig economy” the Graun is so much a fan of?

  10. Grikath: I suspect most Grauniad readers have moved on from “gig economy” (which actually requires, you know, work) to Basic Income (welfare).

    Although many never left.

  11. It’s an article that’s odder than Rhiannon Lucy Consett’s appearance.

    So the fact we have someone paid to sit in queue’s for tickets that would otherwise be too expensive to afford is proof of a ‘crisis in capitalism’ – am guessing in the author’s mind he should be doing what, precisely? Would she abolish the theatre or the concept of charging spectators? Even if you set a price cap on the tickets capacity is still constrained.

    It’s telling about the state of US academia that this kind of observation qualifies as ‘intellectual’ – I’d say its mind boggling but frankly the bar for professorships, especially if the candidate is female or from an ethnic minority is now set so low that they really ought to be liable for legal action under the US equivalent of the Trade Description Act….

  12. Is he happy about his job? Would he be happier if there weren’t so many rich people to pay him to do it? I don’t mind if any billionaires want to make me an offer to make them a computer game or some other interesting project.

  13. “the “gig economy” the Graun is so much a fan of”

    Is the graun a fan of it? Isn’t it the same thing as zero-hours contracts? I’m confused.

  14. So the fact we have someone paid to sit in queue’s for tickets that would otherwise be too expensive to afford is proof of a ‘crisis in capitalism’ – am guessing in the author’s mind he should be doing what, precisely?

    That’s an interesting question. One answer could be to end all taxpayer-provided subsidies to theatres and productions given that they are only going to subsidise the rich.

  15. “in kind of a manor-born type of way”: I wonder what her mother tongue is.

    Anyhoo; why are the theatres “leaving money on the table” like this?

  16. True, 80k ain’t a fortune in NYC but it’s not minimum wage now, is it?

    I know what you mean, Tim, but to be nitpicky about it, average entry-level salary in Manhattan is $45K for a run-of-the-mill office job (I understand, jobs in journalism may be different). That’s what I started with. And I was able to live in one of the better Manhattan neighborhoods, with roommates but in a decent walkup apartment. You can live in a luxury building with a doorman, elevator, gym, etc. in Manhattan with a salary well under $80K. Maybe not in the Dakota, but definitely in a building that most New Yorkers would envy. Again, with roommates. Still a pretty good quality of life, even though it would be even better and more private in a more reasonable city.

    There’s also New York City taxes, but…let’s just say people handle those in their own individual ways.

  17. A guy earns $80,000/year from rich people who don’t want to queue. Tell me again that wealth doesn’t trickle down.

    Unfortunately, his business is probably going to get closed down by laws preventing working long hours without breaks (i.e. the USA equivalent to the Working Time Directive in the UK+EU – though the UK implementation would still allow it).

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